How Fit Are You? Test VO₂ Max—The Ultimate Fitness Metric
You have likely gone to great lengths to achieve maximum endurance by working out hard. Now you can improve and achieve maximum endurance with VO₂ max or oxygen uptake. Dive in to learn what VO₂ max is, how it’s measured, and how you can increase your VO₂ max.
VO₂ max is the gold standard of endurance and a hot topic in the endurance world. Fitness enthusiasts persistently try to improve their running or aerobic ability using advanced metrics like VO₂ max to track performance by monitoring heart rate and determining recovery time between sessions. VO2 max is a basic indicator to determine the endurance of an athlete. However, high VO₂ max doesn’t always mean that you are a better endurance performer. Sometimes, an athlete with lower VO₂ max can outperform an elite athlete with higher VO₂ max by increasing the workout intensity, training in intervals.
VO₂ max tests are conducted in sports science labs that require a person to run on a treadmill wearing a mask attached to an oxygen cylinder, elevating treadmill gear to the maximum level, and then measuring the maximum oxygen a person's body utilises during an intense workout. Besides, measuring endurance through wearables is a huge breakthrough in the fitness world. One can monitor their performance via wearables that capture readings. These gadgets (like fitness watches) measure the body’s ability to consume, circulate and utilise oxygen via reflectance oximetry method. Infrared lights penetrate the skin reaching oxygen in the blood and reflecting light back to the sensor in the watch. It is possible to calculate higher and average levels of VO₂ max metrics during brisk outdoor walks, runs or hikes.
Let’s dig deeper to know all about VO₂ max.
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What Is VO2 Max?
VO2 max is the highest (max) amount or rate (V) of oxygen (O₂) the body can absorb or consume during a workout. It is an excellent tool to understand the body's fitness level, like how much oxygen-rich blood the heart can pump and the heart’s efficiency in extracting and utilising oxygen. Oxygen is a crucial component in the respiratory process. While breathing in oxygen, the lungs absorb and turn oxygen into energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which powers cells and helps release carbon dioxide (CO₂).
An athlete's VO₂ max is at its highest when his/her oxygen uptake remains stable even as the exercise intensity increases. It is measured in litres/minute (L/min) or millilitres/minute per kilogram (mL/min/kg) of body weight. Although there is no ideal score for a perfect VO₂ level, elite athletes or cyclists performing in marathons usually reach approximately 75 mL/min/kg. Whereas values for women are around 10 per cent lower due to higher body-fat composition and lower haemoglobin levels, says a 2022 systematic review of findings in the International Journal of Environmental Journal of Research And Public Health.
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How To Improve VO2 Max?
A 2016 meta-analysis issued in the International Journal of Exercise Science reveals that intense interval workouts are one of the most suitable ways to improve VO₂ max. But without downtime, injuries like stress fractures, tendonitis, or tendon damage can occur, ultimately, reversing and reducing one’s ability to train, therefore lowering the VO₂ max, so take it slow. Do a proper warm up before jumping into high intensity intervals to reduce risk of muscle tears.
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Why Should A Runner or An Athlete Care?
High-intensity interval training boosts endurance, speed and aerobic performance in runners or athletes. People with higher VO₂ levels are more likely to be healthier and acquire a better functional capacity. Besides, they have the benefit of extra energy reserves in the circumstance of sickness or traumatic events to recuperate faster. Nevertheless, in specific genetically set limits, the right kind of training can produce even greater expansions in VO₂ max resulting in more endurance and efficiency.
How are VO2 Max And Cardiorespiratory Fitness linked?
According to a 2022 systematic review published in the Translation Sports Medicine, advancement in VO₂ max (improvement in the functioning of the cardiorespiratory system) can decline the risk of cardiovascular disease. Training at a high level of exertion helps to increase the amount of oxygen muscles get from blood which helps in clearing blockages in arteries. Thus, exercise intensity is required to promote optimal and efficient progress in cardiorespiratory fitness for athletes.
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